Greater Houston Partnership joins businesses in fight for immigration reform

Here’s my first bigger story for Chron that was picked up by their wire service (Pre-editing. Edited copy is Hearsts and I’ll put a link on my clips page).

WASHINGTON, D.C.—President and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership Jeff Moseley stressed the need for comprehensive immigration reform in order to improve the economy and encourage entrepreneurs to start new businesses in the United States.

The House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law Membership held a hearing this morning on the “Role of Immigration in Strengthening America’s Economy” with industry leaders including Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp. and Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.

They pushed Congress to enact reform that would secure the border, keep foreign students and professionals who study and work in the United States, and hold businesses accountable that don’t verify the legal status of their employees. They also dispelled myths about undocumented workers, like how they commit more crimes and consume more benefits than taxes paid.

Members of Congress drilled Murdoch on the role of FOX News in thwarting pro-immigration efforts and addressed the question of what to do with the existing 12 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S.

As a businessman in one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country, Moseley discussed the vital role immigrants have had in providing necessary services in Houston. More than one million Houstonians are foreign-born, with one in 10 identifying Mexico as their country of origin. Businesses in his group oversee almost 300,000 jobs in the Houston metropolitan area.

“Our board fully endorsed engaging on a comprehensive immigration reform initiative because we would agree that the system is so outdated and broken that there needs to be a wholesale reinvention and reconstruction of the law,” he said.

Under the current law, many immigrants who want to study or work in the United States have to wait decades because of restrictions on the number of immigrants that can enter the country legally every year. According to Moseley’s testimony, the law only allows 5,000 low-skilled laborers and 85,000 high-skilled laborers per year.

“There should be a mechanism so that every year there is an assessment of labor needs in America. And however that assessment is done, there would be opportunities to allow Visas to be issued for skilled and unskilled,” said Moseley. “Embed one number in law, and then you need an act of Congress to amend it, which then means you’re locked into a number that doesn’t work and encourages a breaking of the law because demand is so great.”

Moseley said Houston’s demand for both skilled workers—primarily engineers and medical staff—and unskilled—highway workers, energy and construction—will suffer once Baby Boomers retire and the workforce isn’t replenished.

Both Bloomberg and Moseley pointed out that the birth rate in the U.S. statistically wouldn’t fill vacant job openings when Baby Boomers retire and immigrants are almost twice as likely to start businesses than Americans.

“We think that a law that does not recognize market forces or labor demands is doomed from the beginning,” said Moseley.

The Greater Houston Partnership created a non-profit organization called the “Americans for Immigration Reform” that sponsors immigration research and outreach to lawmakers, the public and media in support of reform.

Mayor Bloomberg also recently formed a coalition of business giants and mayors to push for immigration reform in Congress. This “Partnership on New American Economy” includes leaders from Disney, Hewlett-Packard, Marriott International, Boeing and San Antonio mayor Julian Castro.

The group says it intends to make its point to policymakers by “publishing studies, conducting polls, convening forums and paying for public education campaigns.”

“The economics couldn’t be any clearer. Immigrants pay more taxes than they receive in benefits. We educate them here and tell them to take those jobs and start them in other countries. We need to create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants,” he stressed.

Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) questioned the panel on differentiating “illegal” and “legal” immigrants and pointed out that mothers with illegal status delivered more than 67 percent of the births in the Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital this year.

“If you don’t believe we have a border security problem, I’ll take you to the Texas/Mexico border and you can watch for yourself,” he said.

Earlier this week, the White House Director of Domestic Policy Melody Barnes addressed a conference sponsored by the Hamilton Project and the Brookings Institution on what the Obama Administration aims to do about immigration reform. She said they were “disappointed” that the DREAM act was shot down and hoped Congress could find consensus to pass legislation in the near future.

“Obama is fiercely determined to stop kicking the can down the road and to get this moving,” she said. “I can promise you that President Obama will not rest until those bills are on his desk and he is able to use his pen to sign them into law to bring people out of the shadows to ensure prosperity and the moral character of our nation.”


The Start of Many New Things

I feel like having a “quarter life” moment here because of some exciting news I heard last night from a dear friend of mine of over 18 years. First, she just got engaged to the man of her dreams, and second, that I’m going to be a bridesmaid! I also have a friend who has a baby on the way who is my age. I know everyone has these moments at one point, but I sat up last night just thinking…when did I wake up and become an adult?

Don’t get me wrong. I still have to mooch off my parents to survive in this city for the kind of money I’m making, but hopefully that will change sooner rather than later. I also have many friends who go to  class, intern, drink at happy hours and go clubbing at night. But I’m finding myself standing with one foot in that world–the Sex in the City style, young professional/grad student world–and another in the world where my friends are starting families and thinking about buying homes.

Where am I in all of this? Well, I’m still a young professional trying to make ends meet here and pursue any opportunity I can. I still socialize (and yes, I know that doesn’t go away when you get married and ‘grow up'”) and I enjoy the occasional free food/beer event. On the other hand, I’m in a serious relationship, I stay in more often, I work longer hours and I’m thinking about where things are going and how I can possibly fund a family one day.

Who I was a year ago: The girl learning her way around a new city, meeting so many new people and drinking with fellow journalists. I was meeting an array of new friends, ending an undergrad relationship and learning to live alone for the first time. I was also interning, cramming term papers, learning new journalism skills, chasing after buses and planning my holidays in Indiana.

Right now: I’m the girl who just finished two stories for her new part-time job at the Houston Chronicle, is planning out her next move for another part-time job, and is finishing a contract job through a contact she made throughout the year. I’m also the girl who has had much luck this year getting published and meeting great mentors in my field, but still needs to find a way to earn a living. I’m the girl getting ready for a free food/networking party with my former internship site chatting with my friends about weekend plans and helping my engaged friend think of wedding venues. Also, I’m a girl in love, and missing him from thousands of miles away. I’m the girl who wants to blog (successfully), wants to learn Farsi, wants to get better at multimedia and wants to go abroad someday.

Who I want to be: I want to be the girl who gives advice to people my age on how to go after what they want. I want to be the girl who tells people about her experience in a foreign country working on stories in human rights or cultural issues that strike a cord with readers back home. I want to be in better shape, have a full time job, be married, and keep in touch with those who matter to me. I also want to get better at organizing, less overbooked, and less whiny.

Till then, I’m the girl at Starbucks, munching on pumpkin bread and hoping the Internet keeps working.

Twitter’s Web Journalism Chat Addresses an Important Question in Journalism: Jobs

Tonight, mostly led by journalists with jobs, WJ (web journalism) chat featured a lively discussion on what recruiters are looking for in job applicants. Later in the conversation, journalists also delved into what skills and assets they’re looking for WHEN and IF they have job openings.

I eagerly awaited the question that asked recruiters to list job openings. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any pop up for D.C., but wouldn’t that have been a cool story? “I got my job from following Wednesday night WJChats? Nowadays, a lot of opportunities happen this way.

Robert Hernandez stole the show with his great advice, job listings and connections he made as a professor at USC and a potential ONA board member. What particularly stood out to me was the lack of students weighing in on the discussion or job hunters. Maybe they were nervous or maybe they felt left out of the employed journalists who seemed to all know each other and congregate in a bubble. Or maybe they were like me, who tweeted every so often and clicked refresh hoping for their next break.

I am lucky, considering that I’m fresh out of grad school, someone decided to give me a shot. I’ll be working part-time at the Houston Chronicle in D.C. doing multimedia and various reports on select issues that interest the Texas audience. I’m looking forward to starting, but I’m also looking for other work so that combined, they would equal one livable salary. In the meantime, I’m volunteering for two media groups (ONA and WAMU), keeping up the foreign policy blog and looking to write for various publications.

I was glad that the discussion tonight didn’t solely focus on social media and technology, because at this point, we get it. We should learn these tools to be able to compete, and we should do this on our own or by joining a school that keeps up with the times. AU is getting there–it is full of professors who understand how journalism is changing, but that hasn’t translated to the curriculum. There are still classes where  you have to write 3,000-word stories and there isn’t enough equipment to teach half of the students how to use a video camera. But from talking to some faculty last night at TBD’s launch party, I learned AU has incorporated a video class for the online/print journalism students.

In my opinion, these are the big things you need to get out of your program before graduating:

  • You need to embrace social media for all its wonders. Don’t start a Twitter account and stop after two Tweets. You’re probably already on Facebook, so get yourself a Delicious page, Flickr and Linkedin account too.
  • Take Bill Gentile’s backpack journalism class to learn storytelling through video. He’s been in the trenches and is about as real as it gets. Also take his foreign correspondence class if you’re an adventurer or have any interest working abroad.
  • Bug the hell out of David Johnson when it comes to the web. He is the most forward-thinking professor I’ve had so far. He isn’t the type to hold your hand and show you what to do. But he’ll point you in the right direction and help you if you work hard. From him, learn the basics of WordPress, Drupal, using social media, Flash, Photoshop (he wont teach you it…but yeah…learn it), and how to brand yourself. On the side (as of now they won’t teach you it) learn some HTML, CSS and PHP. Kinda makes you want to major in computer science!
  • Learn how to edit and use audio equipment for Soundslides and radio packages.
  • Get to know the friendly folks at J-Lab and the IRW, and if you can, get involved!
  • Dive into Joseph Campbell’s media myths–they’ll surprise you and serve as a good lesson on how to conduct your own work
  • I unfortunately never took a class with her, but everyone who has had Lynne Perri for a class has fallen in love with her because of her great advice with editing and producing quality work. She has also been very helpful to students in the job searching process.
  • Finally, blog, put your work on the web and WRITE as much as you can. I came from an English writing background, so that wasn’t as big of an issue for me. But if writing isn’t your thing, the best ways to improve are to a) READ a lot and b) WRITE a lot.
  • Oh yeah, and intern/freelance. You NEED experience!

Some advice from Tweeps during#wjchat:

henrymlopez: Q2 Be able to learn. Know that you’ll need to teach yourself and learn what you’re shown.

webjournalist: Q2 When I hired, news judgment, ethics, pro-activeness and good attitude were key. Tech stuff we could teach you, but know basics. #wjchat

JeffHidek: Q2 Flexibility is king. A vast knowledge base is great but you have to be able to adapt to changing circumstances. #wjchat

SLODeveloper: Q2: Ideal dev candidate would have a bachelor’s degree and 2 years experience in HTML/CSS, Javascript, PHP, MySQL and enjoy dessert #wjchat

kimamoy: Q2 — I look for strong news judgment & Web sensibility, plus ability to learn quickly due to constantly changing tech & new needs #wjchat

andymboyle: @verbalcupcake That they got a degree and have a portfolio that proves they’ve taken initiative. #wjchat

effHidek: Q2 Know the basic principles of databses, coding, flash, actionscript w/ the willingness to learn more. #wjchat #wjchat

kimamoy: i’ve hired laid-off print journalists as contractors, and if they didn’t have web experience, they didn’t last long #wjchat

NicWirtz @verbalcupcake Basically want an example of someone out of their comfort zone and learning something new. #wjchat

wjchat: Q3 Are you interested in applicants being specialists (great videographers) or generalists (scrappy newshounds)? #wjchat

henrymlopez: I am disturbed when I meet people with fresh J-degrees and no digital training. This does not bode well. #wjchat

Q3 Truthfully, know enough about everything but specializing in something. Someone recently said, you need to be a Journalism Plus. #wjchat

BillBoorman: for every interview you need to prepare 3 sets of questions 1 something theyve told you 2 something they havent told you #wjchat

JeffHidek: Q4: Clean up that FB page! We rejected a promising candidate this year after his Facebook profile told a diff. story #wjchat #wjchat

webjournalist: Q7 If you are applying for a Web job, get a domain and your own site showcasing your work. Y’all, it’s actually really simple. #wjchat

What You Would Say During Interviews If You Were Brutally Honest?

So what goes on in your head before you articulate some witty, professional answer during an interview? We all have our formal answers that sound like automated emails, but what would happen if you said what you REALLY thought?

Disclaimer: These are not really MY OWN thoughts nor my actions when I’m interviewing or at work. Ask my former employers and professors if you don’t believe me.  This is supposed to be funny. Haha…get it?

First, I present the “Too Honest” Cover Letter

“Dear: some HR representative that is sifting through 10,000 of these (or if you’re lucky, the person hiring you got through a contact who was nice enough to pass along the name),

Or the worst: Dear some random person I didn’t take to time to figure out or that the website/ad made impossible to find,

Obviously, I’m writing because I’m applying for this job. I have done some stuff in the past related to the job, and I qualify for the skills you laid out. I might mask some of the requirements I don’t QUITE qualify for by talking about something else for a second. If I’m a recent grad, I’m going to exaggerate my internship experience as real experience (HEY…it is!!)  But I’m special–more special than everyone else, I swear. Here’s why.

I know this guy who you kinda know, or who is prominent in this field, who inspired me to apply.  I did this project at this one place that will impress you and I used this skill that you would like. Here’s a fun fact about your company I Googled and here I am relating it to myself.

In conclusion, I really want the job, otherwise I wouldn’t be wasting my time writing this. You really should skip this and just look at my resume or take five minutes out of your day to get to know me on the phone. I promise I won’t bite. Even if I’m missing a small requirement, give me a chance, why don’t ya?

Please email me back a response—even a “no” is better than nothing,


Onto the Interview…let’s pretend it’s for a law firm.

1. Why are you interested in this firm?

What you said: Because your firm has a reputation for excellence and dedicates itself to serving the community.

What you thought: Because you pay $2000 a week. WOOT

2. Why did you go to law school?

What you said: I went to law school because I want to be able to make a difference. Legal work allows me to be competitive and to work for justice, both of which are important things in my life. (ya this is the gist)

What you thought: Don’t ask me this now when I prepared for this interview in between cramming for class and paying the first installment of my tuition. But I mean…I went to law school to work for some place like you, so help a sista out.

3. Do you think your grades are an accurate reflection of the kind of work you will do as an attorney?

What you said: Oh yes, and my work performance will improve just like my grades are!

What you thought: Umm you should only ask me about my Legal Research grades because Legal Research is the only knowledge I will use on this job. And the whole point of school is to do well at a job, right?

4. What would you say is your greatest weakness?

What you said: My greatest weakness is that I get too personally involved with my work….

What you thought: G-CHAT. And food. I wont give up lunch breaks…

5. Tell us about a recent mistake that you have made.

What you said: i did a memo for my boss that my boss didn’t even need but he loved anyway! Bonus points!

What you thought: Flat out fucking up an assignment b/c it was too difficult for me and I was too worried about impressing the boss to tell him. But luckily it was a dumb assignment no one cared about, so why mention it, ya know?

6. What do you do for fun?

What you said: Reading, going to my local church, volunteering, being outdoorsy.

What you thought: Come on, you were in college too. You know what we do for fun. And I fucking hate nature, but it’s really uncool to hate nature.

7. Tell us about your style of leadership.

What you said: I lead by taking the initiative and working proactively with my peers to come up with solutions.

What you thought: Befriending everyone with my awkward humor…heh heh

8. If you don’t get hired by this firm, what will you do?

What you said: I will analyze what I could have done better during the interview and take that knowledge with me into my next interview with [rival firm name].

What you thought: Cry and hate you guys until something equal or better comes along, just like in real life relationships…. and blame your rejection on the fact that I’m either overqualified or a student who can’t catch a break!

9. Do you have any questions for us?

What you said: What sort of pro bono opportunities do you offer?

What you hought: Do I even have a shot? Who else are you talking to? Do you like me? Will you even tell me yes or no?

10. We value creativity among our associates. With that in mind, what kind of plant would you be, and why?

What you said: I would be a tree, because they are tall, strong, and live a long life.

What you thought: It’s Wisconsin, most plants die in the winter. I’ll be a cactus or something.

Why I Unfollowed You on Twitter

I’ve only unfollowed a few people on Twitter, and I gotta say, it took a lot of patience before I reached the breaking point. For some of us Twitter nerds out there, we monitor how many followers we have and cringe when we see the numbers drop. Most of the time, it’s just a bot discovered and deactivated, but sometimes it’s someone who decided they didn’t want you to pop up on their feed anymore. A few of them discovered that I unfollowed them and got personally offended…to which I would like to respond—give me a reason to follow you, then I will.

If you post silly updates, news stories that don’t interest me or flat out stop posting for a month, I will look the other way. But there are a few key Twitter “don’ts” that will get you blocked faster than you can type 140 characters.

I present: How to NOT annoy me on Twitter

Post things I care about

Remember to link your stuff–I wont trust it (unless you’re Anderson Cooper or something) if I don’t see the link!

Quit with wasteful hashtags. Saying stuff like #omg or #ihatemylife or #lolz are a total waste and quite frankly make you look like a twitter snob. It’s obnoxious!

If you are a marketer or PR person I don’t know, do not tweet me unless you have something i would actually want. Don’t follow me either—i get excited when I see a new person has and then I come to see you’re following 50,000 people and have 70 followers…

Mix it up. Add some personal pizzaz to your tweets if you’re just going to regurgitate news stories or retweet things.

Don’t @ like ten people on irrelevant things. I see what you’re doing on my feed. You’re that kid in class who waves “me me me” when the teacher is trying to think of someone to call on.

Don’t check in at your house. Seriously. The point of 4 square was so people on twitter could be like “oh wow that sounds like an interesting place,” or meet up with you if they’re nearby. Do you really want people finding you at your house? Didn’t think so.

Don’t blast out 10 tweets at a time. I’ll only read the first and second from the top.

Lastly, it’s ok to self promote (that is one of the main functions of Twitter), but do it with class

TBD’s Community Network

I was recently featured on TBD’s new commercial on their blogger network. I’m the one saying “TBD from Dupont Circle,” because many of the leading think tanks and foreign policy events happen around Dupont Circle. Right off of Mass Ave, there are some big think tanks like Brookings, The Carnegie Endowment, SAIS, The Middle East Institute, The Peterson Institute of International Economics, The International Language Institute, the UN Foundation and a slew of embassies.